Four Jefferson County schools earn 'achieving' status

Three White Hall School District schools and Pine Bluff’s Lighthouse Upper Academy charter school are among 137 public schools earning designation as “achieving” schools under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act program, the Arkansas Department of Education has announced.

Obtaining the status in the White Hall District were Hardin and Moody elementary schools and Redfield Middle School.

Meanwhile, the now-closed Altheimer-Martin Elementary School in the Dollarway School District was one of four previously rated “needs improvement priority” schools to meet 2013 exit criteria from the classification for the first time

The lowest 5 percent of schools in both literacy and math receive priority status.

Under ESEA (No Child Left Behind), schools are designated as “exemplary,” “achieving,” “needs improvement,” “needs improvement focus” and “needs improvement priority.” Exemplary schools are to be announced by the end of this week.

Arkansas last year received flexibility from some ESEA requirements, according to an ADE news release. The waivers allow the schools to continue to improve educational outcomes, close achievement gaps and strengthen the quality of instruction, the news release said.

All schools are required to meet annual measurable objectives, or yearly targets, aimed at reducing gaps in proficiency, growth and graduation. Students are classified in two main categories — all students and a targeted achievement gap group. The latter includes economically disadvantaged, English learners and students with disabilities subgroups.

Schools meeting their objectives in either performance or growth for two consecutive years earn achieving status. However, high schools must also satisfy performance and graduation rate goals, the ADE noted.

Schools failing to meet their targets are classified as needing improvement. The current year’s results have 793 schools rated as needing improvement.

“We are proud of our three schools that earned the achieving status,” said White Hall Deputy Superintendent Dorothy Welch, who oversees the district’s curriculum. “We’re also proud of our other four schools — Gandy and Taylor elementary schools, White Hall Middle School and White Hall High School — for showing an upward trend with their good scores.”

Efforts to contact Lighthouse Academy officials were unsuccessful.